Monday, September 7, 2015

Healing with Poetry

I'll depart from my normal routine this month, if you'll allow. I've wanted to share some thoughts on my favorite poet Mary Oliver for some time and, although not a vet or in any way associated with the veterinary or agriculture industry, Mary writes about nature and animals in such a wonderful, thoughtful way that I think she deserves a shout out here. My introduction to Mary's work was through a delightful, small work of poems called Dog Songs. If you in any way love dogs, buy it now and cherish it. It is lovely.

It this collection, Mary celebrates many of the dogs with whom she's shared her life and offers such wisdom as:

"Be prepared. A dog is adorable and noble.
A dog is a true and loving friend. A dog
is also a hedonist."

Mary Oliver


"Dog is one of the messengers of that rich and still magical first world. The dog would remind us of the pleasures of the body with its graceful physicality, and the acuity and rapture of the senses, and the beauty of forest and ocean and rain and our own breath. There is not a dog that romps and runs but we learn from him."

Mary Oliver


"And it is exceedingly short, his galloping life. Dogs die so soon. I have my stories of that grief, no doubt many of you do also. It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old--or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give."

This last passage reminds me that I'm to send a copy of Dog Songs to my mom, because her yellow Lab, Phoenix, of 14 years, died this week. I think the words above speak to our gut-wrenching loss of those pups we couldn't save (in the end, isn't it all of them?) no matter what. My own black Lab, Shadow, died of heart failure two years ago and I've said if not for species differences, I would have donated my own heart.

And oh, how easy it is to slip into sentimentality when we talk about lost pets. I'm teetering on that edge right now. The Rainbow Bridge and all that. One can jump overboard. Of course, that's not the intent of this entry. Instead, this is meant as an illustration of how poetry helps and heals (and poetry about animals, especially!).

But, if your heart is heavy because you've lost a pet, here are some comforts:

Other collections by Mary are just as enchanting. In Blue Iris, for example, one poem expresses how the morning sunlight touches flowers with "buttery fingers." Yeah, that's what I'm talking about, people. The beauty of language. Whew boy. *mops brow*

As of yet, Mary doesn't have a collection about cats. I'd like to ask her about that.

Until next time.